Monthly Archives: January 2010

Fireside

Outside it is cold and snowy; perfect weather for sitting inside by the fire. Reading, knitting or just allowing ourselves to be mesmerized by the ever-changing dance of the flames. Recently our favourite ingredients for an evening are a cheerful fire and a board game. So far it’s been Scrabble, Mastermind and Mancala (with an improvised board). This evening it looks like it will be Chess. Oh, and we eat our dinner picnic style on the floor where we will be warm and toasty. Nothing fancy but I’m loving this good thing we’ve got going.

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Little Orange Bear

N and her little orange bear.

I’m sharing this a bit late because of all the printing and organizing going on around my Valentines for Haiti project. In last Saturday’s autism art class we had a little sewing fun! At one table I had some embroidery hoops set up with some bright coloured cloth and thread, and containers of beads and buttons. The children were quite interested, though it was sometimes hard to keep up with threading the needles. One little girl who is doesn’t often stay still for long spent a good 20 minutes working at the station. It got me excited about using cloth stretched on a frame so they can use painting and sewing to create an interesting piece. At the other table I taped down pieces of cloth and put out fabric markers for the kids to draw a stuffy. I brought my sewing machine along to sew up the toys and then we stuffed them. In fact, I was kept so busy with that, and the afore-mentioned embroidery that I only got one photo. But it’s a good one! Only noticed the matching colour when I got home.

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The Valentines for Haiti Project

Introducing my Valentines for Haiti Project! (I know I already mentioned it but I didn’t make a formal announcement!)

These Valentines are hand-printed from hand-carved blocks on high quality, acid free paper and come with envelopes. They also have lovely blank insides for your very own words of love. The cost $5.00 each and net proceeds (proceeds minus cost of materials) go to UNICEF Canada. Cards are labeled on the back so your family, friends or sweetheart will know about the project. To everybody in my area: I’m going to have cards with me wherever I go, and as every card counts let me know if you are interested and I’ll find a way to get one to you! This Valentine’s Day you can let somebody know you love them and give to a worthwhile cause – What’s not to love about that?

Since I last posted, and after some careful consideration, I picked UNICEF as the recipient of the project. I looked at several organization that are doing great work and settled on UNICEF because, along with believing they are very experienced I particularly appreciated their comments about the need to protect orphaned or unaccompanied children from exploitation and trafficking. I know. It’s pretty horrible to contemplate but I’m glad they are working on that. We just need to support them.

To date I have sold 30 Valentine Cards – that’s one selling session and one generous cousin!  I really don’t have a clear goal of numbers and am just printing as I go, hoping to sell as many as I can. Hope this is just the beginning! I’m also gaining the confidence to engage in some pretty shameless self-promotion because I feel it’s for a good cause!

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The Valentines for Haiti Project: Work Progesses

Work is progressing on my Valentines for Haiti Project.  This is a grand sounding name for what is essentially me carving and hand-printing a bunch of Valentine’s Day cards and hopefully finding people to buy them. Proceeds will go to Haiti earthquake relief, although I still haven’t settled on an organization. When I began my first attempts at designing I found myself worried a fair bit about my “audience”, and trying to design something that would appeal, but then I reminded myself that I do my best work when I am pleasing myself and creating something unique!  So after a bit of deliberation, I chose as my subject “Cupid the Honey Thief”. This is an obscure story about cupid stealing honey and being stung by a bee.  Albrecht Durer’s representation of the scene is perhaps the most famous. It isn’t overly romantic, so I’m hoping people could use a card like this for, well, anybody they love, not just their”significant other”. And it’s still the quintessential Cupid valentine, but with a little twist. So here’s my valentine:

Cupid the Honey Thief

This morning, after performing a few tests, I printed my first 11 cards. (11 fit nicely on my make-shift drying line) I think the red looks nice but I’ll probably print some pink and gold too. I’ll be spending a fair bit of time on this so I’ll probably be blogging more about the project, including a step by step printing tutorial. And of course, I’ll be pushing the cards!

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Tulips in the Window

Tulips for “no reason”. Lucky me!

If you’re paying attention you probably noticed that MANY of my photos are shot in this window. The neighbours must wonder why I’m always at the window with a camera. Taking photos inside is a never-ending quest for light, which leads to all sorts of peculiar set-ups. I am slowly becoming more acquainted with the workings, or “moods” of our digital camera, although mostly I just take a lot of photos and hope for the best! I take pains to set up nice photos but what you don’t see are all the odd arrangements necessary to make them possible. Having no tripod, chairs and books or shelves are pressed into service to steady my camera, and I’m often dragging them around for this purpose. Or kneeling on the counter to get a good angle. All this to say that when I find a “sweet spot” where I know I’ll have enough light I return to it again and again. And I suppose it’s oddly fitting that spot is the kitchen counter, around which so much of my making revolves! (Above, you can just see the tell-tale sprinkling of flour on the counter from the morning’s bread making.)

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Bits and Pieces

Please excuse the somewhat chaotic nature of this post. I feel I’ve got a bunch of things to share, none of which are enough for their own post.

Thursday was my first night back at SHYM (Supportive Housing for Young Mothers) since the holidays. I know it is cliché, but we are making paper mache pigs. Piggy banks to be exact. But to be fair, it was specifically requested, and they are certainly enjoying it, which is what matters.

This morning I had my second autism art class. It is an entirely new crew this session and there is a WORLD of difference. The group we had before had some particular challenges and while I was quite happy to tackle them, and learn from them, I am very excited about this new group. They have the ability and desire to engage in the projects I set out, and seem very happy to be there. The class isn’t without its challenges, of course, and focus is an issue. The kids circle round the room, producing art at quite a speed, but it is gratifying to see them enter into each project. Two of the girls (6) eagerly set up their own “still life”s which they proceeded to draw. (With great speed, as always, but also a fair attention to detail.)

And this afternoon I’ve been working on my Valentine Project. I’ve hit upon the idea of making block-printed valentines to sell to raise money for Haiti. It won’t be a huge money-maker or anything, I’ve just been thinking recently about  people who find ways to “do what they do” to help others, and I figured it’s time to stop thinking and start doing. It’s still very much in the design stage, but I feel that if I document it here I’ll be more likely to carry through with my plan. Rest assured I will keep you updated, and if I know you in real life I’ll be tracking you down to buy one!

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Bread, Bread, Bread

There has been much bread baking in the house of late! I finished off my first batch of dough and started another (that incorporated some scrap from the first batch). I’m still trying to get a handle on the flour/water ratio. If I follow the recipe I get a much firmer dough, so I choose to add more water, though I’m still fiddling with it. But I’m quite happy with the results. Or at least, still enthusiastic!

After the last batch two things are on my mind.

1 – I *always* underbake my bread. I read somewhere once that it is difficult to overbake bread, and I think that is true. My bread is still very pleasant, and has a good crust, but I know it would be better if I would have the courage to leave it in the oven longer till it is really dark brown. (Especially as I am baking two loaves at a time. I know a big part of the idea of the book is that you can bake a loaf here and there, but I feel a bit guilty about heating the entire oven for one loaf of bread.)I find too that it comes out of the oven quite crisp but softens as it cools, which has to do with the moisture left in the dough. So this could be an issue with the baking time, and my fiddling around with the results. I’m weighing my dough before I shape the loaves so that when I finally hit on the right baking time I will be able to repeat it. Fortunately, it’s a nit-picky, refining issue, and in the mean time this bread is very nice to eat.

2 – The slashing pattern on the dough has a great effect on the loaf. The tic, tac, toe pattern leaves me with a flatter loaf while the “scallop” marks seem to help the bread keep a nice high shape.

Last loaf from first batch. This dough was in the fridge for a while. Quite flat, but again, I used the tic, tac, toe slashing pattern.  Nice air bubbles. I just need to BAKE IT FOR LONGER!

Loaves from my new batch, dough mixed last night. Also need longer. I think I just need to keep repeating “Bake Longer” to myself as a mantra.

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